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Under Pressure: An Underwater Investigation    by Kathy Brandt order for
Under Pressure
by Kathy Brandt
Order:  USA  Can
Signet, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I thought I'd seen everything in mystery sub-genres but, having scuba dived in different spots around the globe myself, I couldn't resist this 'Underwater Investigation', Under Pressure. It follows Dangerous Depths as the second in a scuba diving mystery series starring Detective Hannah Sampson, who heads underwater recovery and crime scene investigation in the British Virgin Islands.

One glorious morning on a 'beautiful day in paradise', a puddle jumper (a twin-engine island hopper) takes off from the new Tortola airport carrying ten passengers, and almost immediately plunges into the ocean. Hannah is already out on the water, on a training session with her new dive partner Jimmy. Amazingly, when the small plane takes a nosedive, it does so close to Hannah's boat, at a depth of only sixty feet. She and Jimmy rush into action - Hannah avoids reef sharks, while extracting the living from inside the sunken plane, and Jimmy rushes them to the surface. There's an action adventure star and his agent, a senator's wife, a honeymoon couple, a high-powered female lawyer, and a nine-year-old boy named Simon, whose father died on the plane.

While air accident investigators analyse the remains of the aircraft, Hannah and her homicide partner Stark (who, oddly for a native islander, is terrified of the ocean) try to uncover possible motivations for sabotage, and to trace ownership of the gun found on the plane. Soon, Enok Kiersted comes under suspicion. He takes environmental activism to extremes, frees sick dolphins from captivity in the tourist attraction, Dolphin World, and is passionately concerned about plans to eradicate a mangrove swamp and replace it with sand and a new beachfront hotel. As different aspects of the investigation unfold, a shadowy, violent duo lurks in the background. They're trying to recover something in the possession of one of the passengers. What can it be and why will they go to such extremes to get their hands on it?

In parallel with all this, Hannah and her lover O'Brien fight over her job and his desire to have children, she takes Simon under her wing while attempts are made to contact his elusive aunt, and a powerful hurricane heads straight for Tortola. Of course, it all meshes together in a dangerous confrontation with the villains as the tropical storm peaks. Hannah solves the mystery, but as the episode ends, her emotional life is left in turmoil. I enjoyed Under Pressure very much and look forward to reading more of this engaging and competent Detective's Underwater Investigations.

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